No Croutons Required - The Winner for July

The challenge for July was to come up with a bread that would pair well with a soup or salad. We received some wonderful entries but the winner this time around is Sunita who baked these lovely and colorful Cheesy Potato and Rosemary Scones. Congratulations to Sunita who has such a lovely blog indeed.

Jacqueline will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to come up with a soup or salad featuring carrots.

Warm Baby Potato and Asparagus Salad

Large beautiful displays of fresh juicy green local asparagus are a sight to which I've become happily accustomed, but my latest trip to the local market left me with a heavy heart as I realized that this wonderful season must soon be coming to an end. Racing off with two bunches — not quite the last I hope? — I set off to make at least one more asparagus creation while I have time.

Always pairing best with simple flavours, I steamed a bunch of asparagus with fresh baby potatoes and tossed the vegetables with a simple but lively balsamic and Dijon mustard dressing. Served right away to enjoy the warmth and tenderness of the potatoes and asparagus, this was an elegant salad that I think you will find inviting at any time of year, even if the produce isn't local. Enjoy!
Warm Baby Potato and Asparagus Salad


1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 shallot, diced
small handful fresh parsley, chopped


2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Steam the potatoes for 20 minutes, or until just tender. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears into 1" to 1 1/2" pieces. Add to the potatoes and steam for five more minutes.

Remove the warm potatoes and asparagus from the steamer and place in a large mixing bowl with the shallot and parsley. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, drizzle over the salad, and toss gently to combine.

Serve warm. Serves 4.

Other potato salads you may enjoy:
Potato Radish Salad
Mexican-Style Potato Salad with Avocado and Jalapeño
Potato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

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Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Sambar Powder

Homemade Sambar Powder (Sambar Masala)
As I have noted many times in this space, I always do prefer to make my own spice blends, time permitting. Although there are plenty of good ready-made blends to be had from Indian grocery stores, there is just no comparison between the homemade versions. Sambar powder — or sambhar masala — is the base for a wide range of spicy south Indian vegetable or dal curries known as sambars or sambhars, and I prepared this mixture in preparation for a black-eyed pea sambar dish that I made for a dear friend of mine. The addition of chana dal was a welcome addition to the mixture and it thickened it out to suit my preferences. Chana dal as well as the other ingredients in this recipe are easily found in Indian and most Asian grocers.

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No Croutons Required - Breads

The challenge for July was to come up with breads that go well with soups and salads. I was excited to see what fellow bloggers would come up with, and I certainly was not disappointed. Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry this month. As usual, I ask that you please vote for your favorite submission in the comment section or via email. Note that neither my entry, nor Jacqueline's is eligible for voting.

Our first entry comes from Akheela of Torviewtoronto. She served up this mouthwatering Coconut Roti consisting of coconut, flour, chili flakes, onion and curry leaves alongside this unique Sweet Semolina Sago Porridge. Akheela suggests that when making the coconut roti to go with this dish that you omit the spices. So many serving possibilities for the roti and I am sure it is especially delicious with any number of curry dishes. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Our next submission comes from my co-host and good friend Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. These beautiful Yogurt Scones with a Trio of Three Cheeses are made up of Greek yogurt, flour, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, butter, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese and one egg. Indeed these would be perfect for dunking into soup, such as this tempting Carrot, Cumin & Yoghurt Soup. (Scotland, UK)

Our next entry comes from Priya. She made this lovely Whole Wheat Multi-Seeds Bread that includes whole wheat flour, a homemade seed mixture of pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and sesame seeds, olive oil, yeast and a wee bit of sugar. I can imagine how wonderful Priya's kitchen smelt as this healthy bread was baking in the oven. Serve with this Velouté De Poireaux (Leeks N Potato Creamy Soup) for an especially comforting meal. (Paris, France)

Janet of Taste Space is up next with this gorgeous Dill and Cheddar Beer Bread that she made without any yeast. Included amongst the ingredients are of course flour, dill, sharp cheddar cheese, beer and you can glaze the top with egg if desired. This rather dense bread is easy to make and best served with a simple soup Janet tells us because of the complexity of the flavours. I am thinking this would be a perfect use of the fresh dill I have growing outside and know I would especially enjoy it with this Roasted Red Pepper and Squash Soup. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Sunita enters this month with these stunning but easy to make Cheesy Potato and Rosemary Scones. Whole wheat flour (atta), mashed potato, fresh rosemary, english mustard, olive oil, Red Leicester cheese (or cheddar), a bit of milk and an egg are combined here to perfection. Certainly these colourful scones would be an ideal accompaniment to this Mixed Beans and Lentils Broth. (UK)

Ashley of Eat me Delicious contributes these oh so tempting Sun Dried Tomato, Feta and Oregano Muffins. Who could resist this combination of flour, freshly ground black pepper, oregano, butter, eggs, milk, feta cheese and a whole cup of sun-dried tomatoes. These scrumptious savory muffins would go very well with this Mediterranean Pepper Salad. (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Next up is Radhika of Food for 7 Stages of Life with this moist and healthy Carrot Mango Pecan Bread. Delightful mangos, that invoke fond memories of her grandfather, add a nice touch to this bread made with whole wheat flour, carrots, pecans, some sugar, eggs and cinnamon. I am sure this soft bread wouldn't last long, especially if served with Dixie Stampede Homestyle Cream of Vegetable Soup. (New Jersey, United States)

Eleanor from BrownievilleGirl is on a scone mission and she submits this easy, but incredibly tasty, slightly crumbly Honey and Sunflower Ginger Scones recipe. I have a ginger fan in the house who would be sure to enjoy this combination of spelt flour, ground ginger, finely grated carrot, butter, fresh ginger, honey and sunflower seeds. Imagine how delightful these scones would be served with Butternut Squash Coleslaw and a hunk of Dubliner cheese? (Ireland)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe digs into her archives and serves up this plump yeast based Zucchini Loaf made up of zucchini, yeast, a bit of honey, bread flour and glazed with some olive oil. This most delightful bread would be wonderful with this Tomato and Lentil Soup. Your dinner guests will be asking for seconds. (Melbourne, Australia).

My submission this month are these Apple Cheddar Scones that I made for friends. Spelt flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, butter, an egg, buttermilk, apple juice, red wine cheddar cheese, dried apple and freshly grated apple make for a most delightful combination. My friends gave them rave reviews. I would suggest serving them with Fresh Fruit and Berry Soup. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Mango Cheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen offers up these most appetizing Vegan Parsley Shortcakes that she describes as slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Flour, fresh parsley, olive oil, white wine vinegar and soya milk are combined to serve alongside homemade chutney. These would also be a most satisfying side to dip into this Chickpea and Sun-Dried Tomato Soup. (West of Scotland, UK)

Vanessa of Sweet Artichoke experiments for the first time with these cute and appetizing Mini Focaccia. Flour, yeast, a pinch of sugar, some olive oil, fine semolina and olive oil make up these delights that can be garnished with a variety of ingredients, including cherry tomatoes, herbs, Parmesan cheese and olives. These would go well with any Mediterranean dish, such as this Tunisian Salad with Grilled Veggies. (Switzerland)

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf makes her first attempt at a rustic Pane Toscano -Saltless Tuscan Bread and it turned out beautifully. The first step is to make a sponge with flour, water and yeast and then a dough made with more flour, water and yeast. An interesting step in the process is that you spray the baking bread with water to ensure you get a nice hard crust. This bread would certainly go well with Roasted Tomato Soup. (Bangalore, India)

Reshmi of A Feast to the Eyes and Stomach participates in our event for the first time and submits this lovely Potato Bread that she describes as the softest she's ever had. A mixture of flour, mashed potatoes, yeast, chives and dry milk powder are divided into balls and then given an egg wash and garnished with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Serve this with Red Gram (Red Lentil Soup) and you will have one satisfying and filling dinner. (Germany)

Last, but certainly not least, we have these absolutely gorgeous Cloverleaf Rolls with Honey Lavender Shallot Butter Glaze from Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook. A dough of flour, some sugar, yeast, milk, butter and an egg is left to rise in the fridge for up to 24 hours, then cut into balls, left to rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes and then glazed with butter, poached shallot, lavender flowers and honey. A special benefit for cooks in humid climates is they only take 15 minutes in the oven to bake. How elegant, especially when served with Lima Bean and Artichoke Soup. (New York, USA)

Jacqueline will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of August for the theme.

Apple Cheddar Scones

Apple Cheddar Scones

I'm just barely making the deadline for No Croutons Required this month, even though it is my turn to host. The theme this month is breads that go well with soups and salads. I can't think of a nicer bread right now than this simple but wonderfully soft and delicious batch of scones with both fresh and dried apples and a light sprinkling of fresh grated Cheddar cheese to go with it — an easy and much less sweet biscuit version of the famous apple pie with Cheddar cheese. Many thanks for the idea of these scones to Ashley of the now sadly defunct Eat Me, Delicious blog.

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Mexican-Style Black Bean and Millet Salad

Mexican-Style Black Bean and Millet Salad
One of the oldest grains known to be cultivated by humans, millet is a staple food in many parts of Eurasia as well as in Africa where it is thought to have originated thousands of years ago. Although in North America it's primarily grown as livestock fodder, millet is a highly nutritious grain for humans, containing nearly 15% protein, high amounts of fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium minerals, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, and the essential amino acid methionine. Non-glutenous and non-acid-forming, millet is also one of the most easily digestible and least allergenic of grains.

Mexican-Style Black Bean and Millet Salad
But to the modern cook, the main appeals of millet are its warm buttery and slightly nutty taste and a soft porous texture that easily absorbs spicy or astringent flavors. These qualities make it a perfect complement to citrus and fresh tomatoes, and a welcome and healthy addition to zesty summer salads. This simple Mexican-style black bean salad loaded with tomatoes and vegetables and tossed with a spicy lemon-balsamic vinaigrette is a delicious way to incorporate millet into a complete, healthy and colorful summer meal.

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Kamut Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Recently I posted a recipe for a Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing that I adapted from Once Upon a Tart: Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. I decided to adapt it further and turn it into a pasta sauce. To make this recipe you will need to make some Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes. As I noted before, I plan on having a batch of these on hand as a staple ingredient. They are very easy and quick to prepare and keep in the fridge for a few weeks in a covered container. They are absolutely delicious and so much better than the jarred variety. Do take care to purchase sun-dried tomatoes free of salt, sugar and other additives.

I was fortunate enough to have a few dinner guests to share this dish with. I was even told this sauce was probably the best one of my diners had ever tasted. Give it a try and you'll see how rich, luscious and thick it is.

This is also my submission to Presto Pasta nights, a popular event created by Ruth and hosted this week by Pam.
Kamut Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

454 grams / 16 ounces of kamut pasta

For the sauce:

2/3 cup of marinated sun-dried tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1 - 2 jalapeno peppers or green chilies
1/3 cup of fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of olive oil

crumbled feta for garnishing

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook until el dente or to your desired consistency - roughly 10 - 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a food processor, combine the marinated sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, hot peppers, parsley, sea salt, black pepper and Parmesan cheese until well blended. With the food processor still running, pour in the olive oil.

Drain the pasta, cover with sauce and crumbled feta.

Serves 4 - 6.

Other pasta dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Pasta and Feta Cheese Casserole
Greek Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese
Rye Pasta with a Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese

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Vegetarian Three Bean Chili with a Cashew-Pistachio Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Vegetarian Three Bean Chili with a Cashew-Pistachio Sauce
Tempted by yet another recipe from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, I couldn't resist making this chili from the contemporary curries section on one of the hottest days of the year. This is certainly a recipe I will be revisiting in the future, especially during the colder months, but I will say I very much enjoyed it on a hot and humid day. The nuts provide a wonderful accompaniment to the selection of beans. Mr. Iyer suggests serving this delightful chili with cheese, such as shredded paneer, scallions, sour cream or yogurt or perhaps chopped fresh mango. Packed full of vegetables, legumes and nuts, this is a particularly healthy vegetarian meal, and a most tasty one at that. A big thanks to Mr. Iyer for such a lovely and inspired volume of creative recipes.

 Vegetarian Three Bean Chili with a Cashew-Pistachio Sauce Vegetarian Three Bean Chili with a Cashew-Pistachio Sauce
Recipe by
Adapted from 660 Curries
Cuisine: Indian
Published on July 8, 2010

An Indian-style vegetarian three bean chili cooked in a creamy and delicious cashew-pistachio sauce

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  • 2/3 cup dried pinto beans
  • 2/3 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 2/3 cup dried black beans
  • 1/4 cup olive or sesame oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 green chilies or jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Cashew-pistachio sauce:
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 3 cups water
  • Rinse the beans and soak for 8 hours or overnight covered in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and rinse, transfer to a large saucepan, and cover with several inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans tender. Drain and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the cashew-pistachio sauce. Combine the pine nuts, cashews and pistachios in a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup of the water and blend until you have a gritty paste. Remove and swirl the remaining 2 1/2 cups of water around in the blender or food processor to obtain the remaining paste. Set aside.

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and chilies or jalapeños and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and turmeric. Lover the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and begin to thicken.

  • Now add the nut paste to the pan along with the water from the blender or food processor. Stir in the cooked beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the ingredients don't stick to the pan. Reduce the heat on the element if necessary or add a bit more water to reach your desired consistency.

  • Garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve hot with fresh cooked rice or your favorite Indian flatbread.

Makes 8 servings
Vegetarian Three Bean Chili with a Cashew-Pistachio Sauce
Other chili recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you would be sure to enjoy:
Smoky Black Bean Chili
Southwest Vegetarian Chili
Cornmeal Crusted Chili

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Chocolate Brownies with Fresh Ginger

My sweetie is a big fan of ginger treats and so I couldn't resist making these chocolate ginger brownies for him. These are super easy to whip up and very moist and flavourful. The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies. I will confess that I am not a huge fan of Ms. Stewart as she is rather fussy for my taste and I don't like to fiddle around with decorations and such. That said, she does have quite an array of tempting recipes and this volume is beautifully presented. The content section at the beginning of the book is stunning. There are small pictures of each recipe, along with page numbers, presented. If you enjoy cookbooks with mouth-watering food images, you will want to check this out. Most of the recipes are accompanied by gorgeous and inspired sizeable photos. If you are a cookie lover, you will want this book. Everything from light and delicate, soft and chewy, crumbly and sandy, chunky and nutty, cakey and tender, crisp and crunchy and rich and dense are showcased.
Chocolate Brownies with Fresh Ginger

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter + another few teaspoons for buttering the pan
2/3 cup of chocolate (I used a combination of carob and dark chocolate)
1 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of unbleached white flour or spelt flour
1/4 cup of cocoa
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2/3 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

Butter an 8 inch square baking dish. Line the bottom with parchment paper, with some overlap on the sides. Butter the bottom of the parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, over medium - low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the sugar, flour, cocoa, eggs, fresh ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, ground ginger, sea salt and ground cloves.

Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30- 35 minutes. Let the brownies cool for 10 minutes, lift out with the parchment paper and cool for another 15 minutes on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.

More brownie recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Gooey Peanut Butter Brownies with Carob Chips
Chocolate Cocoa Brownies with Dried Cranberries and Chickpea Flour
Peanut Butter Brownies
Brownies with Dried Fruit

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